It must be fall… everyone is coming down with colds and flu, like leaves falling off the trees. Including me. But it’s a crisp fall day outside, the skies leaden and heavy the way October skies often are, and the maple trees in High Park are at the peak of their radiant autumn colours of gold and red. The dog and I spent some time staring out the back window for a while, both bored, and finally his big brown eyes convinced me to to haul my butt into the car and over to the park for a short walk. I pulled out my trusty walking stick, leaning heavily on it against my various aches and pains.
We parked in front of Hawk Hill, and as I got out I noticed a group of people stationed at the top of the hill, armed with binoculars, lawn chairs, telescopes, and notepads. Curious, I approached them, and heard calls back and forth between them as they stared up at the sky.
“There’s a group of five approaching low from the northeast”
“I’ve got three up high”
“I’ve got two more red-tails”
And so it went. I looked up, trying to figure out what they were looking at. I saw nothing, and for a fleeting moment I wondered if they were all nuts.
“Whatcha looking at?” I asked one lady as she lowered her binoculars, looking a little less certain than the rest.
“Raptors”, she said. “Hawks”
“Oh, so that’s how this hill got it’s name. Are they migrating?” I asked
She nodded. I looked up again, and after a few moments I spotted little specks moving in the sky.
“How can you tell what they are?” I asked her, bewildered.
“They’ve been doing it for years”, she replied, nodding toward the rest of the group and wearing an expression that indicated she was only slightly less bewildered than me.
I left them to their work, noting to myself that the trees weren’t the only thing contributing to the local colour.
We walked through the groves of maple and oak and the occasional red pine, and the air smelled of fallen leaves and damp earth. A few lingering crickets chirped in the background, but otherwise it was quiet and tranquil. I threw the frisbee for Jake a couple of times, and then we made our way across the street to “Dog Heaven”. There, tranquility broke into pandimonium. Running, wrestling, barking, happy dogs. Dozens and dozens of them, playing and chasing, growling and sniffing and pulling each other around at the end of long sticks. Owners gathered in packs around the picnic tables, smoking and chatting and watching, voices punctuated by the shrill call of a woman’s voice crying over and over, “Wendo, stay! Wendo stay! Wendo stay!”. Finally a man’s voice broke over hers, “Wendo come! Wendo come! Wendo come!”. Jake looked over the scene, and looked back at me with his pink frisbee hanging from his mouth. I swear he rolled his eyes. He trotted past, ignoring all. We wandered down to the community garden, which was pretty much abandoned for the year. Tired, we both made our way back to the car, and home.